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Five Lessons from the Olympic Marathon Trials




Minnesota Distance Elite had seven athletes competing in the 2024 USA Olympic Team Trials – Marathon, and we had seven different experiences out on the course. The great thing about the marathon is that no two will ever be the same, and they always have ample lessons to teach us.


Here are just a few lessons that we have taken from our experiences at the Trials.


1) The race isn’t over until it’s over. People who watched the race are aware that there was a period of several miles later in the race during which Dakotah Lindwurm was not in the top three. Indeed, when eventual winner Fiona O’Keefe made a big move, the lead pack splintered and Dakotah found herself in 8th place. She stayed mentally engaged, worked her way back up, and fought all the way up to 3rd place to secure a spot on the Olympic team.


(Read more about Dakotah's race here.)


2) Run your own race. Many of our athletes did a great job of sticking to their own optimal effort early in the race, rather than getting caught up in trying to stay with a specific group or person. Others may have gotten out a little too quick and paid the price for this mistake, or spent too much mental energy thinking about things outside of their control. Whatever race you are running, be sure that on race day, you stick to your own plan and executing it to the best of your ability.


3) Have a variety of goals. Many of our athletes did not achieve their “A” goal out on the course. When the Olympic team is on the line, it can be easy to get caught up in binary thinking – either you make the team or you don’t. The same can be true of a person chasing a personal best, Boston Qualifier, or any other time or place goal. However, the most successful athletes generally have a range of goals, and are able to shift their focus to the one that serves them best in the moment during the race.


(Read more about goal-setting here.)


4) Adapt to the conditions and get very specific in your training.  We don’t always know exactly what challenges we’ll encounter on race day, but it pays to spend some time researching and preparing for likely challenges to the best of your ability. Knowing that we would be racing in Florida in the middle of the day, our team made a priority of spending several weeks in warm weather in advance of the race. This allowed the athletes not only to adapt to the climate, but also to be very tuned in to their body’s response to these specific environmental conditions. Not everyone has the ability to do things like traveling to a race location weeks in advance, but with enough research and creativity, there are ways of preparing for nearly any challenge you will experience on race day.


5) Enjoy the day. Many of our athletes noted how they were able to find some type of enjoyment – sometimes even in the midst of suffering – during the Olympic Trials race. Even at the highest levels of the sport, it becomes very difficult to sustain and justify the effort if you aren’t able to find some enjoyment in the process. Whether you are having a great day or struggling, making a conscious effort to find some enjoyment and fulfillment in the experience is what will keep you coming back, and it’s that coming back over and over again that leads to growth, both personally and in your running.




This article orginally appeared in the The Connection, TCM's weekly e-newsletter. Subscribe here. Find more Motion Expert content here.


 


Chris Lundstrom, PhD, is a running coach and exercise scientist who specializes in endurance exercise performance. He is one of the team of Motion Experts TCM has gathered to help its subscribers and participants get the most out of their running. He coaches the Minnesota Distance Elite team and their squad of national class runners, including Olympian Dakotah Lindwurm. He teaches in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota, and also works with novice and high school runners. Follow and support MDE on their website: minnesotadistanceelite.com and on Instagram: @minnesotadistanceelite.

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